Ross Richie is riding a pretty high wave at the moment. The CEO for Boom! Studios has seen his begun-in-a-basement comic book publisher go from small contender to one of the biggest independent studios in the comic industry. He also produced a little action film called 2 GUNS which, in case you haven’t heard, landed the #1 spot at the box office over the weekend. What makes this guy tick? Why are films and comic books such good friends these days? Find out in our conversation from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.
Famous Monsters. So this has been an exciting year for Boom!, hasn’t it? I’ve been following the publisher for several years, and when I first noticed the company, it was all about having this license, and this license. And that’s great, because when people see familiar stuff, they buy it based on a brand name. But it seems like this year you’ve just had an explosion of awesome creator-owned stuff—you’ve got [Max Bemis’s] POLARITY, which is great; you’ve got SIX GUN GORILLA—I love Si Spurrier, I think he’s awesome. You’ve got the new Clive Barker, NEXT TESTAMENT; SUICIDE RISK, from Mike Carey; and now DAY MEN. I haven’t actually had a chance to read that one yet, but it looks great. Where do you think this explosion of material has come from? Is it just natural growth for you as a company, or was it a conscious decision?
Ross Richie. Well, the way your have to focus your job is to do the best with wherever you are. I started the company with original content, and the first comic we published was an issue of ZOMBIE TALES. I knew that if you did something with zombies, it would get attention. I mean, the thing for small publishers is to get licenses, but I didn’t have any money for licenses yet! I was in the basement. This was how I was able to put out something that people wanted to read. We ran ZOMBIE TALES, and thought this is working, how can we do more? So we started publishing CTHULHU TALES. We tried some other things that didn’t work, like PIRATE TALES and NINJA TALES, but doing anthologies gave us that freelancer base with creators so we could grow and progress.
Then we started doing different mini-series, and that was actually the time that we published 2 GUNS. I had worked at Malibu Comics in the early 90s, and [Writer of 2 GUNS] Steven Grant had written a series for us that was drawn by the great Gil Kane. Gil is the guy who co-created Green Lantern. The Hal Jordan Silver Age Green Lantern, that is—I can just feel the fans villifying that I’m not specifying which one. [laughs] So Steven and I knew each other from that, and we would keep up through the years at different shows, and he said to me, when are we going to do something together? He had twelve pitches, and we couldn’t find anything in there that we could both get excited about. Then in 1998, he told me about an idea he had where two thieves walk into a bank. What one thief doesn’t know is that the other guy is undercover DEA. What the undercover DEA doesn’t know is that the other guy is undercover naval intelligence. You can see what Steven thinks of the government, there. [laughs]
FM. Sardonic, right?
RR. Right. So they’re going undercover to steal three million bucks from this bank. They think it belongs to a Mexican drug-runner. But when they take the cash out of the back, what they find is that they actually stole forty million dollars from the CIA, and the CIA wants them dead. They’ve been set up—they’re patsies. Steven Grant is a guy who’s known for doing the Punisher. He made the Punisher a superstar. He loves crime noir. And this was pre-CRIMINAL, before Brubaker made noir “hot”. Nobody was doing crime, and I was like, that could be awesome! So we did that book, it went on its journey, got optioned, and now it’s a movie coming out August 2nd starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. And then we were in the conversation as a publisher, and we could credibly go into a company and license WARHAMMER. After that came FARSCAPE, and then we had things to show other companies. We went from two books a month to seven to ten. And to get back to your original question, what you focus on is a challenge. If we can do five books a month, well, let’s do six. Then when we master that, let’s do seven. So at the end of the day, we’re not beholden to a spreadsheet—we’re beholden to our own satisfaction.